There Will Be Thorns


I went out to the garden early this morning, mostly so my kids wouldn't see me cry. Over the last day, our family has been trying to absorb the very bad news conveyed to a good friend. Without talking too much about details--because truly they are too tender for words here--I bring to you an earnest request for prayers. For our friend, for his family, for his doctors, for all the people who love him: please pray. 

And I offer to you some perspective that hit me as I was pulling weeds amongst the lavender. 

Yesterday, before the news went from bad to very bad, I was talking to an old friend about the idealistic homeschooler I used to be. I was lamenting (more than a little) the loss of such optimism and confidence. And I was wondering aloud if perhaps I don't always choose the hard way of doing things, only to end up with the same result as people who do things the seemingly easier way.

She spoke sense to me and I put the conversation away. Mostly, my thoughts were interrupted by much more urgent matters. My thoughts were interrupted by a real life crisis, not a philosophical demon of my own making. 

Today, in the garden, while wrestling with tall grass grown up around the lavender, I thought of a remark my sister-in-law made within my earshot long ago. She told someone that we chose to homeschool because I had had cancer. At the time, I remember thinking that wasn't really true. We came at home education from a different place, a place rooted in educational theory. I very much wanted to embrace homeschooling from a pedagogical perspective. Then, not long into our journey, we learned about the spiritual benefits. But I never really thought it was about cancer. 

It sort of was, though. I truly didn't know how many days I had (none of us do) and I wanted to invest huge quantities of quality time into my marriage, and children, and family. Home education seemed the best way to do that. It was what we heard God calling us to do.

It was what was right for our family.

The reality is that my cancer experience shaped the idealistic, hopeful young mother I was. Today, my eldest child texted me from the bedside of his dearest friend and I relived those days that shaped me--shaped us. My heart broke for him. These present days are dark days, indeed. 

But his friend has grown in wisdom and stature and understanding of the Lord in a home very much like ours. And the missives this boy sends me are insistent that he serves an awesome, merciful God. Somewhere in his youth and childhood, someone got something very right. Whatever comes, he goes into this fight wearing the full armor of God. 

Sometimes, it's not readily apparent what the benefits of home education are. Particularly as children get older, it's easy to become discouraged or to second guess this grand (and often messy) experiment. It's easy to despair and to wonder at the [broken?] promises that if we just did things this way, the teenaged and college years would be a breeze. 

There in the garden, taking deep breaths of lavender to keep from sobbing, I took up the previous day's conversation with my friend. It was too easy to imagine a mother's pain as her child suffers. This young man's mother is in my constant thoughts and prayers.

Where to find the peace in what seems like like such senseless, tragic news? What to tell my children as they each offer their own version of "why?" 

In the early morning garden, my friend offered that the idealistic young girl could find peace in the reality of the here and now, only if she has grown into a wise woman who "laughs at the days to come." She said that meant that in the midst of the mess and the ugly and the sick and the pain, we know there will be joy, there will be grace. There will be eternal things to hold on to and give it all meaning and purpose.

Somehow, the idealistic young girl knew those things years ago, when in the wake of cancer, she determined to keep her young son at home a while longer and teach him how good life is. The weathered older mother prays fervently that those lessons were well learned and that now he can intimately know God's grace in the midst of tremendous sorrow.

Tomorrow will bring more news, no doubt. Tomorrow, instead of tall grass I can pull with my hands, I will have to conquer the ridiculous, prickly weeds and the blighted leaves of my beloved roses. There will be thorns, no doubt. There will be thorns. I will need the full armor of heavy gloves and pruning shears. But there will be blooms, too, and I am determined to see them, to appreciate them, and to share them with my children.